Happy Ending (short story)
Though frequently anthologised, the story did not appear in a collection under the writer's own name until 2010, when it was included in Detour to Otherness, with 23 other stories written by Kuttner himself or in collaboration with his wife, Catherine Moore.
The narrative proceeds out-of-sequence. Described chronologically a man named James Kelvin presses a button and returns to a lab with a moustached scientist who informs him that he was now a millionaire. Now that the button had completed its task, it no longer works. Kelvin lives happily ever after.
The story then switches to an earlier point. A man walks into a fortune telling booth where he meets a robot from his future. The robot tells him that his name is James Kelvin and that while unable to give Kelvin a horoscope, it could supply him a method at attaining health, fame and fortune. He receives a gadget with a button on it. Every time he presses the button, he temporarily enters the mind of someone in the future. After pushing the button, the robot warns him, "there is a danger, Tharn". Afterwards the name Tharn keeps taking over his thoughts.
Later that night, Tharn appeared to him. To escape, Kelvin pressed the button and landed in a stream. Unable to swim he frantically pressed the button again, which gave him the ability to breathe under water. To escape the stream, he pressed the button yet again and landed in New Orleans in a drunken state. To escape, he pressed the button again and transported into a lab. There he met a bald man with a red mustache. He began a scientific conversation with him on proteins and amino acids. He offers a brilliant idea to cure rhinitis that would make him millions of dollars. Tharn appears again, forcing Kelvin to press the button once again. He lands in a cornfield in Seattle. He decided to kill Tharn. Moments later Tharn appears and, when Kelvin presses the button, he gains the ability for a lethal mental attack. Tharn is destroyed.
Finally, the story switches to an even earlier point. The scientist Quarra Vee, and his android, Tharn, are preparing to go into the past to find the runaway robot. Quarra Vee is transported into Chicago and walks into a fortune telling booth. As he enters, a rope knocks aside the glasses which are supposed to protect him from attempts to tamper with his memory. The robot erases his true personality, and tells him he is James Kelvin.
- Happy Ending title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Detour to Otherness title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
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